Coutras, France

Saturday 7th July – Friday 13th July

We left Copenhagen exceptionally early – 3:30 am as our first flight to Paris was at 6:05am. Phil enjoyed his final Danish pastries at the airport and tried several of them. “All three of them were delicious!” he declared. Once we arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport, Paris, we needed to change flights to catch a plane to Bordeaux. This all happened without a hitch and we arrived in Bordeaux just after 11:00 am. We got our bags and then went out into the terminal.

We found a café and had something to eat. We waited here for a while and then moved to another spot. We were waiting for Megan, Paul, Mum and Paul’s parents to arrive from Dublin.

They arrived in on their scheduled flight at 4:00pm. Phil and I had already organised our car hire, although hadn’t collected it as we were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. We went and collected the car and we ended up getting a Peugeot with only 9000 km on the clock! It’s a nice car, but it just ramped up both Phil and my nerves.

Larry, Paul’s father volunteered to come in the car with us and help us to navigate the unfamiliar roads on the wrong side of the road. We were very grateful for his assistance. Phil’s confidence increased as we were driving and he even managed to overtake some cars. We took a wrong turn coming out of the airport, but google redirected and we got to our accommodation okay. We were about 10 minutes behind Megan and Paul.

The house is beautiful! It has a footpath to the front door surrounded on both sides by lavender in full bloom (with the bees buzzing around too so we didn’t walk up the footpath). The house is white with green ivy growing over it. It truly looks amazing. The inside didn’t disappoint either with a formal dining room, informal meals area, kitchen, laundry (thank goodness – need to do a couple of loads of washing), lounge room and a full length terrace out the back. Upstairs was all the bedrooms. Each room that we are using has an ensuite bathroom. It is amazing. The owners have done up both this section of the house – the big house and their section – the small house. It had been an abandoned barn with the terrace originally being the cow shed.

Outside the back yard has extensive gardens leading down to the River Isle, which eventually joins up with the Dordogne River. It also has an inground pool, which looks appealing today as it’s close to 30 degrees Celsius today.

Megan and Paul headed to the supermarket so they could get some food and wine to enjoy for dinner. We had a beautiful meal cooked with fresh French produce. (We all chipped in money for the ‘kitty’ to buy the food we will need for the week).

On Sunday we had a quiet day doing some washing and relaxing. The wifi speed isn’t great so it takes a long time to upload photos onto the blog, but we persevered and slowly got there. I enjoyed relaxing and just reading a book. This break was exactly what we needed. I volunteered to go with Megan and Paul to the supermarket. It was crazy! It was a mix between Kmart and Woolworths. You could get everything all in one place. Crazy indeed. I was okay with getting some things, but obviously everything was written in French so it was a bit tricky to get milk as I couldn’t tell which one was full cream, half cream or any other combination.

Monday was also a quiet day with both Phil and I staying at the house and just relaxing. On Tuesday morning Phil and I walked into Coutras to collect the morning croissants and freshly baked bread for breakfast. It was a lovely walk, although we couldn’t explore Coutras as we had planned to go out to a Roman ruins and then on to Saint Emilion today.

The Roman ruins were at Montcaret which is about a 30 minute drive from where we are staying. Mum loves this kind of thing, so we explored this area for about an hour. Then we headed to Saint Emilion. This was another 30 minute drive from where we were. This town is so pretty. It is almost exclusively dedicated to red wine, but there were pretty restaurants and the view was amazing. Megan and Paul got caught up tasting red wine, so we joined them.

We then headed to a restaurant that Paul had booked for lunch. The lunch was amazing. Mum and I shared a bean salad (luckily – it was huge). Phil had oysters. For a main meal Mum and I shared a huge lamb shoulder (it was for 2 people), Phil shared a huge piece of beef (again for 2 people), whilst everyone else ordered a main meal of duck each. For dessert, Mum and I had raspberries with cream. Phil had a larger serve of raspberries. . It was a lovely meal with some lovely sparkling wine and great company.

Phil and I decided to stay on in St Emilion and explore a little more. We ended up joining an English tour of some of the historic monuments of the town. We had some time to wait so we went down to where the tour would start and had a drink. Phil had a beer and I managed to find some actual Diet Coke (Coke Light here in Europe). It was perfect!

The tour was okay (it wasn’t super expensive). We saw the cave where St Emilion lived for a time. It was quite interesting as the tour guide was explaining that there was a certain chair within the cave that they called the fertility chair. There had been many reports of couples who were trying to have a baby without success, had sat in that chair and then were able to fall pregnant. Another miracle that had happened, there is a natural well in the cave. A blind lady came to St Emilion. He used the sign of the cross on her forehead and she was able to see. After seeing St Emilion’s Hermitage, we then went into an old church. The paintings on the wall indicate that this was used as a church around 1000 years ago.

 

After here we went into the catacombs, where the important people of the time were placed upon their death. It was very interesting. This then led into the underground church. The bell tower sits on top of the church and it weighs 4500 tonnes. There have been some concerns about structural damage and it has been shored up by steel, however the local historians are keen to try to find a permanent solution, however that will take quite some money to achieve. The altars are just so pretty and it is very cool after the 30+ degrees Celsius heat of outside.

Our tour ended and we headed back to the car and back to our accommodation. Megan, Paul, Larry and Noelle opted to go into Coutras to find a bar to watch the World Cup semi final between Belgium and France, whist Mum, Phil and I chose to stay home and watch it. France won the game and we went to bed.

On Wednesday Mum came with us to get the croissants and bread for breakfast. They were setting up a market in the town centre, which we found. We headed back for breakfast, then Phil and I decided to walk back into town to check out the market. Mum decided to come back with Megan and Paul as they were driving. We took some photos of the town and Phil enjoyed a capucchino which was a great one according to Phil. We caught up with the everybody else and decided what to have for dinner. It was almost 12 by the time we had finished the shopping so we decided to have a beer. (Some people were having a beer at 10am when we had our capucchino and Coke Light). It was very pleasant sitting by the square and enjoying another Coke Light with family. They all enjoyed their beers.

Phil and I decided to wander around the town a little longer, so the rest of the crew went home and we headed down to the river. We got a little something for morning tea and ate it down by the river. The view was amazing. We took some more photos and headed down the Charles de Gaulle Promenade. We noticed a lady fishing up river, near the town. We couldn’t believe all of the fish that we could see downstream in the river. I went back and was able to communicate with her that I could see fish in the river just a little further down. Whilst she didn’t understand English, I was able to express my message. There were heaps of fish that we could see in this area.

We walked further along the river and then decided we needed to head back home. We enjoyed relaxing in the afternoon as we had walked over 13 kilometres today. We all stayed home to watch the second semi final of England vs Croatia. It was intense. England scored during the first 5 minutes and then Croatia scored mid way through the second half. One all. Both of these teams had won penalty shoot outs to get through to the final. With 10 minutes to go in extra time Croatia scored. It was an intense final 10 minutes with England going all out to try to score again, but it wasn’t to be. Croatia and France will battle it out for the World Cup final on Sunday.

 

On Thursday we got more of the blog done and relaxed reading books. Friday is shaping up to be more of the same. Some of our group are returning to Ireland this afternoon. Mum, Phil and I are heading to Bordeaux tomorrow to celebrate Bastille Day and my birthday along with my sister and her husband.

This week has been very relaxing and a chance to unwind in the middle of our holiday. It has certainly been a nice break and we have enjoyed eating the beautiful food of France cooked and prepared so well by my sister and her husband.

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